Collectors' Displays

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Sample Collection at PennDOT HQ

Sample display case located at PennDOT headquarters, Harrisburg
Picture from John McDevitt

Ed Levine

Two pairs of Passenger plates from sequential years, 1934 and 1935. Plates measure 6" x 10". I understand that this series allowed for personalization of plates.    

Jake Eckenrode

Truck Plates from 1914 to 1919, including all weight classes from 1 Star to 5 Star. Plate display from 2018 ALPCA Convention in Valley Forge, PA.    

Harry Campbell

Motorcycle plate collection

Todd Mickinak

Motorcycle plate collection  

Sarge at Klassy Karz

Uncertain series on the 1977 base, possibly intended for a fleet of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicles. One plate has a 5-85 sticker.

Jeff Hinkle

Plate collection

Clayton Moore

1966 New Car Dealer plates with '67 stickers    

Jeff Lesher

1947 to 1961 Passenger plate run    

Bob Connison

1950 to 1964 Passenger plate run    

Rich Dragon

Pennsylvania sample passenger car plates date back to at least 1926, and possibly earlier. Samples of non-passenger plates, although not made consistently for any type, are known for various types as early as the 1930s. Sample plates are made available by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to motor vehicle agencies of other jurisdictions, law enforcement agencies, and plate collectors, usually for a nominal fee.

The Commonwealth's modern, expansive sample plate program appears to have begun in early 1985 with the publication in that month of a color brochure designed specifically to promote sample plate sales to collectors and other interested parties. The tri-fold flier offered twelve samples at $10 per plate; $9 each for orders of 6 or more, or $8 each if a complete set of twelve was ordered.

This collection, assembled in late 2004, is based upon one started by the late Terry Quigg, of Johnsonburg (Elk County) Pa., apparently in the mid-1980s when the aforementioned program began. Terry is said to have periodically visited BMV headquarters in Harrisburg in order to purchase examples of the newest samples as the state's organizational plate program expanded in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s. Unfortunately, declining health forced him to curtail his collecting endeavors, including keeping up with his sample plate collection, in the late 1990s. He passed away at age 81 in September 2001.

By the time his collecting activities waned, Terry had prepared a collection of 112 Pa. organizational and non-passenger samples on a series of 8 boards, each of which held 14 plates (in two columns of seven), along with 28 passenger car samples from 1965 through 1990. The passenger plates were displayed on two additional boards, labeled "A Penna. Sample For Each Year I've Collected Plates," and he transported the ten boards to at least a few annual conventions of the Auto License Plate Collectors Assn. (A.L.P.C.A.) to share them with his fellow plate enthusiasts.

The display in its present form was prepared by Richard E. Dragon, formerly of Glen Rock (York County) Pa., who acquired Terry's sample plate collection, still mounted on the ten boards, during the fall of 2004. He then purchased from the BMV an example of each sample then available, a total of 101 types and designs. By this time, the cost was $5 per plate for up to 10, or $4 per plate if more than 10 were ordered.

The Quigg collection was combined with plates received from the BMV to form the present collection of 198 plates, which are mounted on eight of Terry's boards, but now with plates on both sides of each panel. The display was prepared during late 2004 and early 2005.

All of the 198 plates presently displayed are different, and the number of regular passenger car plates shown has been reduced from 28 to eight, one of each base (1965­-70, 1971-76, 1977-83, etc.) and variety (as to numbering formats since 1983) used since 1965. For a few types, such as Ex-P.O.W. and antique historic car, two examples are shown because there are noticeable differences between older and newer plates of the type. Also, for many types, examples of both the 1983-99 (yellow-on-blue) and 1999­present (blue-on-white) plates are shown.

The plates have been grouped by type, such as College & University (the largest category in terms of number of different designs), Special Fund (the colorful graphic plates available to all PA motorists), Military-Related Organizations, and Antique Vehicles. A few of Terry's original display signs, those across the top of the first two boards of each side of the display, have been retained. Other signs have been added, in Terry's original style, to identify the various plate categories.

Panel 1, full shot

Panel 2, full shot